After a freaking monstrous season that the Greek Freak had, no surprise, he is this year’s NBA MVP, who also just recently got his freaking first signature sneaker released – the Nike Zoom Freak 1. And because Giannis is originally from Europe (Greece to be more exact), here we watch each other’s back even when it comes to sneakers, that is why I was blessed to snatch a pair early.
So that being said, let’s dissect the new member of Nike’s basketball line-up. Will they perform as freaky on-court as the Greek Freak himself? There’s the only way to find out… Read on.
WEIGHT: 348 g. / 12.2 oz
TECH: DOUBLE-STACKED ZOOM AIR
FIT: TRUE TO SIZE
RETAIL PRICE: $120
BD RATING: 7.7/10
Like many performers in this price range, the Zoom Freak 1 is featuring a textile mesh upper with a few touches of a neoprene-like material which can be found on the tongue and the rare portion of the ankle collar. As for additional support and extra durability, since the upper is pretty much single-layered (cleaned shaved like Giannis’ face), you do have a heat welded plastic shroud overlay covering mesh from toe to heel.
Surprisingly enough, having that plastic shroud right on top of the mesh didn’t hinder its softness and form-fitting ability. Straight out of the box, your feet will be welcomed with an enjoyable step-in experience. No break-in time is required, well, maybe a quick one to let it mold to your foot for a truly custom fit.
While a full-length Zoom Air beefed up with a double-stacked Air unit in the heel was so much fun in the KD 12. The Freak 1, even though rocking a similar Zoom Air tooling in the back, was nowhere near as much fun to play in. Why? The main reason being that the forefoot is completely “Airless”.
Again, much like in the KD 12, the heel section in the Freak 1 was freaking perfect: tons of impact protection, crazy bounciness & responsiveness to play around with. But then you head over to the front where the only right word to describe this whole madness is “WHAAAY?”. Why not moving one of the Air units from the heel to the forefoot area for a nearly full-length Zoom Air experience, which is arguably the best thing you can have for the cushion.
On the other hand, I see many guards or light players actually enjoying the heck out of this tooling due to a low profile ride in the forefoot that not only offers premium court feel but also lets you be in control of your foot planting in various situations. As in addition, the injected Phylon will serve the whole thing with some solid impact protection and a bit of pep in your step type of action. Whereas heavier, more explosive players that tend to utilize the midsole, and what’s inside of it more by simply putting bigger force on it, will still be able to feel rather tangible contrast between the heel & forefoot areas. Damn it… A simple forefoot Air unit would have made it perfect. What a bummer (not for everyone, though).
As for the very first signature shoe, brands usually tend to go deeper into the design phase to come up with a story-telling traction pattern that at the same time is functional. But that stuff always gets me on my tippy toes since the record shows that it’s more story-telling than functional, in most cases. Yet my tippy toe trip doesn’t end up there… The Nike Zoom Freak 1 is also utilizing a dual rubber design with both solid & clear rubbers in charge which on it’s on could make or break the performance. Luckily, none of the two did appear on the Freak 1 (phew!).
The pattern on the solid rubber portion of the outsole is somewhat comparable with the herringbone as that transfers to the actual performance of it. Straight from the get-go, this stuff is ready to generate some pretty solid bite with the floor, although, the longevity of that solid bite heavily relies on how of a dirty court you’re playing on. Since the pattern on the solid rubber is rather compact, no surprise, things tend to go a bit south once dust is present. It’s nothing major, though, as you can fix it with a quick wipe or two once a few positions.
Now the translucent part was a completely different animal, like really. The grooves are widely space so dust was never an issue in that region. However, it requires some break-in time to wear down that “performance killer” layer to sort of link up with the rest of the outsole for a balanced grip. However, during the break-in process, shifty players might want to hold it up a little bit, since the translucent rubber areas are the ones that take on the most force when going for a quick lane change or stop. So you will be experiencing some light slip outs from time to time, but only for a few days max. Once broken-in – the traction is solid but falls short to be awesome due to lack of aggressive bite and the need of consistent wiping.
If you love what the latest Kobe models bring to the table, no doubt about it, you will love these as well. Therefore, the Freak 1 is basically a blend between the Kobe 11 & Kobe AD “Exodus”, plus a chunky looking heel that doesn’t straight away fit into the frames of a fast shoe, until you take them for a spin. Yes, the weight of a double-stacked Zoom Air caged into the phylon makes the shoe feel a bit rare-heavy. But due to the smooth mold of the midsole, it blends in nicely to follow up with the rest of the shoe’s sporty theme by offering that slick heel to toe transition.
Keeping those Kobe vibes going, the rest of the shoe’s construction sits super light on your foot. Not quite on the Kobe NXT 360 level, still, one of the lightest sneakers currently in the ball game nonetheless. There’s no actual torsional plate fixed beneath which in conjunction with a low profile forefoot & lightweight upper makeup for agile on-court performance. Obviously, like the NXT 360 or any other sneaker that has a similar construction, the actual fit is definitely the biggest factor that determines whether they will work for you or you will work for them. That being said, I highly recommend going true to your size. Make sure they’re snug around the foot as this will benefit the overall performance & experience in all ways possible.
First time in a while I didn’t feel the need for a wider platform. The flat base complimented with a pretty vast outrigger in the forefoot made sure my foot is stable and locked-in onto the footbed at all times. Meanwhile, the upper didn’t lag behind as well, although it might look like a weak spot due to lack of basic paneling. Actually, this would be true if not those midsole wings going up on both sides of the upper to form a huge cage for lateral containment. Continuing with the upper, the forefoot section has an internal strap system that is connected to the lacing system. So when you’re tightening up the laces, those straps wrap around your foot and push it down preventing it from rolling over the footbed, and leaving no space for slippage issues to appear.
The heel portion of the Freak 1 did a solid job too. The combination of heavy internal padding with both internal & external heel counters in place was enough for plush heel lockdown – had no issues at all.
Now putting performance aside, the external heel counter is shaped from a swoosh logo on the outer side and a rubber piece on the inner side which is, personally, the dopest design piece of the entire silhouette. Let me know your thoughts on that down below.
So the Nike Zoom Freak 1 is listed for $120 which puts it right into the most competitive segment to fight for a place in your sneaker line-up with other solid performers, like the Kyrie 5 or PG 3. I feel like all of the mentioned sneakers do have a pretty much identical performance base, while there’re only a few authentic bits and pieces that could distinguish each one from another. The Kyrie 5, for instance, is famous for a true guard cushioning backed up with great traction. The P3 has a super responsive forefoot section for an explosive ride on both sides of the court. While the Zoom Freak 1 is all about lightness & quickness paired up with a heavily cushioned heel area. The selection is huge. What’s your choice?
All in all, I had tons of fun playing in Giannis’ first signature sneaker, no doubt, a solid addition to Nike’s already deep line-up. The only thing I’m adding, obviously, is a forefoot Zoom Air unit. If they can pull it off next year – I’m pumped for its feature.
ARE YOU FROM EUROPE? NO PROBLEM.